In a decade, fixing your car won’t be siting for hours in a room with others watching a small TV and drinking stale coffee. Instead it’s likely your car will signal your device alerting you to the problem, identifying vendors with their pricing and reputation and asking which you’d like to use and when; then your car will drive it self on the selected date, be serviced and returned to you by itself. While seemingly far-fetched now, this scenario and similar ones will soon be the modus operandi.
To explore how technology will change our immediate future, I thought it would be valuable for me to select from the 750 CEOs I’ve interviewed a few who are true technology visionaries. These five are transforming industries like TV, education, elevators, mainframes and networks. They are:
– Tony Black, President, Otis Elevator Company Service Business
– Charlie Nooney, CEO and Chairman, MobiTV, Inc.
– Rami Rahim, CEO, Juniper Networks
– Sanjay Shah, Founder and CEO Vistex, and Co-Creator The Lehigh Vistex Institute for Education Learning and Research
– Andy Youniss, Co-Founder and CEO, Rocket Software
Robert Reiss: Talk about your breakthrough in technology?
Sanjay Shah: Our breakthrough in technology came from our ability to weave seemingly disparate functions into a single software platform that enables executives to holistically assess and determine how they take their products and services to the marketplace. We put our proprietary technology to work to bring this vision to fruition. For example, we are working with one of the largest diversified manufacturer in the world to re-architect how they work with their distributors to promote their products.
We’ve also created with Lehigh University The Vistex Institute for Executive Learning and Research which pioneers integrating learning and research. It will focus on having research serve as the core foundation for the content and teaching in each class. The research will tap into timely and relevant business trends to enhance the learning environment and provide pertinent experience for executives to elevate their value.
Charlie Nooney: Most Internet providers are losing customers to large companies like Comcast or AT&T because they either don’t have a video product to bundle or because their existing video product is massively outdated.
With MOBITV CONNECTTM, any Internet provider can launch a fully branded, fully compliant, full-featured cable service in as little as 15 days leveraging the existing installed base of retail Internet enabled devices such as Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV and Roku. And it’s a game changer for end users too. They get a full cable lineup with local channels, DVR and more…all with the same ease as signing up for and using Netflix.
Rami Rahim: Artificial intelligence is beginning to weave its way in new ways into our lives. And I think over the next five years – or less – we’ll only see the pace of adoption quicken. Early manifestations included digital assistants like Siri, Alexa and Cortana, and now we’re starting to see more sophisticated services like autonomous vehicles and computers that use deep learning to make decisions without human intervention.
The problem is, the networks where these new automated services will live have historically been bogged down with tedious, manual, human-driven tasks and processes to get it all to work seamlessly. Human intervention can’t keep up and this is where automation comes in. At Juniper Networks, we use advances in AI to move towards what we call the Self-Driving Network. A Self-Driving Network is a fully automated network that can self-configure, monitor, manage, correct, defend and analyze, independently navigating and eliminating complex tasks with little to no human intervention.
Tony Black: 164 years ago, Elisha Graves Otis invented the modern elevator and forever changed the urban landscape. In the years since, Otis has continued to redefine the company with innovations that include production of the world’s first escalator, the gearless traction elevator – making skyscrapers possible – and one of the world’s first remote elevator monitoring systems.
Today, with roughly 2 million units in the Otis service portfolio, we’re delivering breakthrough technologies that change the way we approach elevator and escalator maintenance. Through our connected digital ecosystem and investments in emerging technologies, we can see and fix an issue before it becomes a problem. We’re able to remotely monitor the health of connected equipment, share diagnostics with mechanics via mobile and digital tools, and keep equipment up and running with greater ease – improving uptime and the passenger and customer experience.
Our connected systems are built to give our customers and maintenance teams real-time, 360-degree equipment information. And we use machine learning, big data and mobility tools to deliver predictive, proactive service that gives our customers the right tools to stay ahead of passenger needs and product lifecycle.
Andy Youniss: New technologies build on top of previous ones. The Internet didn’t emerge out of a vacuum, and neither did smartphones – they were the culmination of a long line of technologies going back decades. People don’t realize how much of the world relies on transactional systems running on mainframes and other powerful platforms with long histories. For example, just about every major company relies on mainframe midrange systems, and many of them use both. One of the reasons that Rocket Software has been successful for almost 30 years is that we made a strategic decision early in our company history to help organizations continually modernize and optimize these systems. With Rocket, they can protect their investments in these systems and support each successive evolution in computing – which is a lot less expensive, risky, and disruptive than a “rip and replace” approach.
Our technologies are all about enabling systems that weren’t designed to work together or support the next big thing do just that. We recently launched several products that let users access mainframe data securely from a variety of applications, including mobile apps. Of course, when the mainframe first came out the idea of tablets and smartphones didn’t even exist, but today these are the platforms that people want to use. And we have dozens of products that help make it possible for our customers to continue to reap the benefits of their powerful back-end systems while supporting today’s business needs.
Reiss: How do you envision technology will change business and society over the next five years?
Rahim: At Juniper Networks, our mission is to connect everything and empower everyone. We look at the network as the backbone of the internet – the network connects everyone and enables us to accomplish more collectively than we can individually.
We’re well on our way to seeing the Self-Driving Network in action. The promise of automation and AI has always been one of a smarter, more capable network that gives people the time to focus on more strategic innovation. With Juniper Networks leading the charge in AI and automation, networks will become even more reliable, efficient and less error prone.
Black: In today’s urbanizing world, it’s not enough to innovate or to simply connect buildings and equipment. We need to evaluate trends in the broader tech landscape and find ways to integrate with those solutions so that we – industrials – become a seamless part of peoples’ daily journeys and digital touchpoints. It’s about the enhancing the customer experience via the intersection of people, buildings and innovation. That’s the future and that’s our focus.
Youniss: I think we’re coming to the end of the platform era. Until now everyone has been focused on what systems are being used, but as the cloud and mobile become ubiquitous the underlying machines are less and less important to end users. In fact, I would argue that the platform wars are over, and that data won! Today, it is all about data. The more technology becomes part of our lives, the less important the platform is. Organizations just want everything – all of their data – to work together so they can meet their business goals. This is a massive change, because it’s democratizing technology that has traditionally been controlled by a small number of people. Users aren’t just going to settle for what’s available – they are demanding that technologists design hardware and software that meets theirneeds, not the requirements of an IT department. It’s a real inversion of the traditional development model.
Nooney: Traditional cable provided set top boxes will be a relic in 5 years. Not only are they a massive capital investment and operational overhead but they will never be as compelling from a cost or user experience perspective as retail connected TV devices. Powerful companies like Google, Apple and Amazon are investing heavily in marketing and hardware innovation, but more importantly, they have invested heavily in fostering strong app ecosystems which has led to thousands of TV apps representing both mainstream and niche tastes. History has shown that platforms with thriving app ecosystems win.
Regardless of how compelling the user interface, traditional cable boxes will never have the abundant app ecosystem of iOS, Android or Roku based devices making it a necessity for Pay TV to offer its services on these platforms to stay relevant.
Shah: Besides making our personal and professional lives more efficient, the true promise of technology lies in its potential to shape our thinking, and create life and business opportunities that have not been dreamt of yet. I believe technology will help anticipate our needs, not merely meet our needs. For example, smart contracts powered by blockchain technologies will eliminate all inherent inefficiencies between the contracting parties
… In summary, we started by talking about how fundamental elements like auto repairs are changing. Yet if we really think through a few decades out, my opening paragraph scenario would change in one way … the cars won’t drive, they will fly themselves back. My message to CEOs is, envision how quantum breakthroughs will transform your industry, and how you can beat the competition to deliver the next breakthrough technology.
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I specialize in writing about CEOs. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.